Why you need to go watch the Calgary Inferno

calgary inferno

One of the top tier hockey teams in the city of Calgary plays out of WinSport, and you should go watch them.

The first athlete I remember admiring was Catriona LeMay Doan. She won back-to-back Olympic golds in the 500 m speed skating event, and I wanted to be her.

It took me longer to get into professional sports, but as far back as I can remember, I was always into the Olympics. It was easy to get into the games and cheer for the Canadian athletes; it was even easier when you could see yourself competing in them.

Not necessarily due to athletic talent – and what I wouldn’t give to go back to 10-year-old me and tell her that 10 years old is not too late to get into a new sport – but because people who shared your gender were there, and they were competing, and they were good.

The Calgary Inferno had their season opener this past weekend, and they were competing, and they were good. They hosted the Boston Blades for two quick back-to-back games. The first ended around 8:30 p.m. Saturday night, the second started around 8 a.m. Sunday morning. It was an insane turnaround necessitated by the fact that CWHL players can’t just play hockey and that’s it.

But the turnout was there. The stands of the Joan Snyder arena were as full as they could be for the Saturday night game. A group of young girls played on the ice during one of the intermissions; they could be seen peering over the glass, watching, when the actual game was on. Post-game, it was almost impossible to get out; the rinkside was crowded with Inferno players and fans alike, waiting to meet the players and get something signed.

The stands were a little less full for the Sunday morning game because, duh, early Sunday morning, but still, there were people watching. And they were treated to a show.

It’s not just that giving these girls athletes to look up to is important – and it is incredibly important. Representation matters. It’s a lot easier to believe you, yourself, can do something if you see someone who looks like you doing it. A professional women’s hockey league does that for a group of aspiring hockey players otherwise overlooked – it’s that the Calgary Inferno are a legitimately incredible team.

After taking a quick four goal lead in the first period, the Inferno defeated the Blades 7-1 to a full crowd Saturday night. They outshot them 56-17. Brianne Jenner, one of Team Canada’s gold medalists from the Sochi Olympics, introduced herself as the Inferno’s new captain; Hayley Wickenheiser, who any decent hockey fan has heard of, made her debut as well.

calgary inferno

It felt as though they never left the offensive zone. (Here are pictures from the game.)

They followed up this performance not even 12 hours later, when they again dispatched of the Blades 4-1, again outshooting them by a wide margin (although they didn’t quite hit 50 shots again, they came close). The second game was less out of control, particularly when, after taking a 4-0 lead, the Blades’ captain Tara Watchorn (another Olympic gold medalist) broke the shutout bid. 

Once she scored, the action shifted from Inferno dominance to up-and-down the ice in a display of evenly played, fast, and extremely talented hockey. And this is all off of very, very little sleep – and in the case of Louise Warren, who had a goal and two assists in the second game, none at all. (More pictures!)

And it should only get even better. The Inferno are in Boston this weekend for a rematch; the week after, they return home to host Les Canadiennes for two weekend games: and that’s a roster that boasts names like Julie Chu, Caroline Ouellette, and Marie-Philip Poulin.

In other words, it’s sure to be incredible hockey.

So, you know… go watch them. Because it’s important. And because they’re so, so good.

  • mk

    How much are tickets? Too bad I’m near Vancity, otherwise I’d watch an Inferno game or two. I never grew up attending Flames games ($$$), only watching on TV and once in a while we’d go to a Hitmen game because of the good price. This could be a similar situation: great price for fun hockey to watch at a decent level.

    I hope the CWHL (and its rival) really grow the game and bring womens’ hockey to the competitive level the NHL has. That’s a real long-term goal and might never happen, but it would be neat.

  • I’m appalled by how quickly the sexist comments came out. You don’t need to like the team, but no reason to come on here and belittle what they do just because they’re not men.

    Personally I’m excited to go to a game when I’m back in town, especially with all that elite talent!

    Ari, is CWHL considered professional or are they technically amateur athletes?

    • Ari Yanover

      Since CWHL players aren’t paid (yet, hopefully), I dunno if you can call them pro, but I’ve seen some players refer to themselves as professional, so I’d call them pro athletes.

      Re: WinSport parking – I’m in the south too and I actually bus in, but every time I’ve driven up to WinSport, parking has been free. There’s a parking lot right at the Markin MacPhail Centre and that’s the building they play out of. No parking cost, you just drive in.

      • Unfortunately thats what I figured. Hopefully that will change soon!

        I may be way out to lunch here – but other than the issue of two Boston teams, would there be any way that a CWHL and NWHL merge could happen? It would be awesome to have a larger professional women’s league and the talent is clearly there. Or even at least a championship game between the best team from each league?

        • Ari Yanover

          All the Inferno people I’ve talked to about it have been more on the “????” end of things regarding the CWHL/NWHL, but it seems to be common opinion a merger is in store down the line. No idea if that actually happens, though.

          & Dr. Philosophy – thanks for the correction! I heard stuff about them getting paid next year, not this year though. That’s awesome, even if it’s just baby steps.

          Your assessment of Sunday’s game is bang-on, it was genuinely entertaining. Saturday was along similar lines, albeit a bit different since they were leading 4-0 after one and all.

          I know the team is hoping they’ll be able to play all their games in Arena A at some point, and there are a couple of games in there this year. I agree re: Arena B seating. I’m roving rinkside during Inferno games, but I did watch the prospect scrimmage from the seats back in July, and it’s not particularly awesome. Bearable, but ehhh.

  • If tickets are free maybe…if not a Midget AAA or a Junior A game (for a small cost) provide much higher competition level.

    They play outta of a nice barn tho, too far for someone like me that leaves in the deep south unfortunately

  • Ari Yanover

    Missed the game on Saturday for work, but was at the game on Sunday. It was a lot of fun. Things I liked:

    1) No one took a shift off, on either team

    2) I could afford it (actually, we have season tickets = ~ $13/game)

    3) There was no nonsense after the whistles (a la Brandon “I want to fight you but not really” Bollig)

    4) There was plenty of scoring on account of strong systems play.

    5) There was no swearing/beer swilling/obnoxious behaviour in the crowd

    6) One of the Inferno players, Louise Warren, worked ALL NIGHT LONG as a policewoman then played the game, and had a three point day. That’s passion.

    Things I didn’t like:

    1) At Joan Snyder the seating is all at one end of the rink.

    2) Concession strategy needs work.


    One small point, Ari: the women are paid to play (marking the first time ever for them), just not much.